You don’t have to leave Galesburg to try the best pizza in Illinois or one of the top 100 pizzas in America. Yelp has published its top 100 pizza places for 2023, and Baked at 57 S. Seminary St. in Galesburg is ranked #40 overall and #1 in Illinois.
Yelp, the mobile app that allows people to post crowdsourced reviews about businesses, says the Yelp Reviews ranking is a never-ending list of the top pizza places in the US. They identified businesses in the pizza category and then ranked those locations based on a number of factors, including overall volume and review ratings.
The news was both exciting and shocking for baked founder and owner Kevin Prow.
“It’s so cool — I’ve been getting texts and calls, and it’s so exciting,” Prow said. “It actually crept up on us. We knew we had a good reputation for reviews and that came from a lot of nice people.
“When I first heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I thought, ‘This can’t be true. It’s like fake news or something.”
Baked opened in 2012 at the same location at 57 S. Seminary St. and celebrated its 10th anniversary this past July.
“It’s really quite an honor,” Prow said. “We just feel lucky – lucky to have been doing this for 10 years, lucky to be in Galesburg, lucky to have a community to support us. It was great.”
According to Yelp’s Top 100 list, it’s the best pizza in America and Canada Sapori Di 786 degrees, Pasadena, California. They are known for gourmet Neapolitan-style pizzas inspired by flavors from around the world.
Next best to Baked in Illinois and ranked No. 43 overall Milly’s Pizza in the Pan in Chicago.
“All of this surprises me, but being No. 1 in the state surprises me more than No. 40,” Prow said. “But all of this surprises me – it’s more than I can really fathom. We’re just here in Galesburg, just here on Seminary Street.
“You could talk to 10 people in Galesburg and 7 of them wouldn’t know who we are or where we are. We always have people on the phone saying, “Hey, we’re ordering pizza, but we don’t know where to get it.”
According to Prow, what makes baking so popular?
“Everyone here cares about the place,” he said. “We care about the food, the quality of the ingredients. Quality ingredients can smooth things out.
“And then there is the service. If you bake enough pizzas, occasionally something will happen. If something isn’t quite right, we always make sure the person knows we’ve tried and that we care, and we’ll make up for it in any way we can.”
Prow believes it’s the ingredients that make baking stand out.
“We’re doing everything we can from scratch,” he said. “We make our own batter and sauce. We make our own sausage and grind our own cheese. We chop every green pepper and onion and piece of garlic that goes through the place. You can get a bag of frozen green peppers and frozen sausage, throw them on a pizza, and it would be fine. For what we do, we want our hands on it.
“Everything has a little bit of us, and it’s as fresh as we can make it. I think all of these things add up.”
Prow describes baked pizza as home cooking with an emphasis on a culinary side.
“It’s not overly fancy, but there’s something behind it,” he said. “It’s an attempt to be a little bit more, a little bit different. Our pizza will always have something unique.”
A simple cheese pizza is one of the best and most popular baked goods, but Prow likes to experiment with ingredients, which often results in slightly odd-sounding combinations.
He said one of the most unique pizzas he’s made is popcorn and pomegranate.
“It had pomegranate seeds, fresh mozzarella and popcorn, and a little bit of Marciano cherry juice,” Prow said. “It was so weird and delicious and beautiful. It was probably the weirdest thing we’ve ever had, but there’s always something weird happening to us.”
“You’re really only as good as the last pizza you make, so not much will change for us. Hopefully that reflects in how the next customer is treated and how they feel.” — baked owner Kevin Prow
Prow said it’s hard to tell if baked has a signature pizza.
“We get asked that a lot,” he says. “The specialty pizzas that we keep on our menu made it onto the menu because they’re pizzas that we just tried and people liked them and still like them. So they are all our signature pizzas.
“But the one that stands out is our uncle punks. It has mozzarella, a little thicker, with some provolone and just tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and oregano. It’s simple but my favorite and was on the menu from the start.”
How will winning Illinois’ best pizza affect baking in the future?
“You’re really only as good as the last pizza you make, so it’s not going to change all that much for us,” Prow said. “Hopefully that reflects in how the next customer is treated and how they feel.
“It’s not really our style to promote ourselves too much. We like to fly under the radar. I expect other people will talk about it enough that we don’t have to honk our horns.”